Monday, November 13, 2023

2nd Annual SFA VolleyBlog All-WAC Teams

For 11 years in this space - and while Stephen F. Austin was in the Southland Conference - I created my own version of the Southland All-Conference Teams. These posts were often my most read of the year and they almost always led to conversations among people both here at SFA and around the league.  My musings about HOW all-conference teams can, should, and might be constructed is well chronicled in the archives of this site.  For my take on this, you can click the "2019" link in the right sidebar and easily find the post to the 11th and final rendition of my Southland All-Conference picks.  

In the WAC, coaches are asked for nominations. Then, those players that are nominated are voted upon by these same coaches and from the rankings submitted, the all-conference lists are formed.  I've long frowned on the "nomination" phase of this process, but I understand why it is done.  

Honoring players is always good.  But, there's more than one way to do it and I'm not sure it can be proven that one way is superior to another.  Oh, I've tried to make that argument.  Again, search through the pages of the blog if you dare. I've tried to construct logic for how I always made all of those old Southland lists in this space.  My main observation about typical All-Conference lists has always been this: the lists are not teams - not teams in the truest sense of the word.  I'm not the only one that this bothers, but again, I understand the way that many conferences do this and I'm done trying to convince others that one way is better than another.  Instead, the spirit of this and all future posts like it is simply to champion the idea that honoring players is always good and that there is more than one way to do that.

My take on this is simple:  Construct a first team, second team and third team that ARE ACTUAL TEAMS.  That is, my teams have two outside hitters, a right side hitter, two middle blockers, a setter and a libero.  That makes seven and then I add a wild card (WC) to each team to allow for a total of eight "starters" (imagine 5-1 plus extras or 6-2 structure).  I'm not a fan of a "1st Team All-Conference" list that has five outsides, one middle and two liberos with no setter or right side hitter.  That's not really a "team" as might be constructed at the start of a typical match.

I'll also throw in some "honorable mentions" because again, the spirit here is that honoring players is always good.  Why be stingy?

Disclaimer: (Yes, I need this.  My history in the Southland dictates this is necessary) This post was published BEFORE the official All-WAC teams were announced by the conference.  I do this independently and DO NOT discuss my picks with coaches or representatives from the institutions (including SFA!!) beforehand. Believe it or not, but in the Southland I got accused once or twice of actually influencing the voters because I would publish the lists before the coaches turned their rankings in.  I found that claim absurd, but started publishing the list the day or two before the league announced the real winners so that the voting would be over or ending.  

I have called on ESPN+ or on radio a match involving every team in the league this year.  I have personally called and/or watched each team in the league play entire matches multiple times.  Based on what I do for a living, statistical analysis weighs HEAVY in making my picks.  But, I've been calling collegiate volleyball for a decade now and so the "eyeball" test is in here too.  But just know.. numbers/stats are what will always drive me.  Put numbers up or shut up is how I look at things in the sport world most often.

You probably can tell from reading this:  I have a lot of thoughts on lists like this and one theory I squarely adhere to is that these are NOT team awards.  Just because a team does well does NOT imply it should have a certain number of athletes represented.  Great players from teams with poor records should still be recognized if worthy.  This is one shortcoming I notice on basically every conference's lists - the teams down in the standings too often get completely shut out.  Now, there isn't room for every school usually, but again, I see no need to shut players out just because they play for a team down in the standings.

NEW THIS YEAR:  I am including a statistical breakdown after each list.  This breakdown includes "Stat Pros" and where appropriate "Stat Lows".  A Stat Low is a ranking within the players' position group that places them in the bottom half of the starters in the conference for that statistic.

Without more delay except to say that a) I will be at the WAC Tournament all weekend long and would be willing to talk All-Conference picks with anyone who would like and b) you can always email me at with thoughts, let's get to it:

2023 SFA VolleyBlog 1st Team All-WAC

OH Tatum Parrott, Grand Canyon
OH Brianna Ford, UTA
RS Ielan Bradley, SFA
MB Izabella Ortiz, SFA
MB Paige Reagor, UTA
S Klaire Mitchell, Grand Canyon
L Haley Hoang, SFA
MB Emma Burke, Tarleton

Stat Pros:
Parrott: 1st OH in K, K/s, %, 3rd OH Bl/s
Ford: 2nd OH in K, K/s, %, 1st OH Bl/s, 4th OH d/s, 3rd OH ace/set
Bradley: 1st RS in K, K/s, %, Bl/s
Ortiz: 1st MB in BL, 2nd MB in Bl/s, 3rd MB in k/s, 4th MB %
Reagor: 1st MB k/s, 3rd MB in Bl/s %, 4th MB K, T5th MB in BL
Mitchell: 1000+ assists, 40 aces, 2nd S d/s, 1st S Bl/s
Hoang: 2nd L dig/s, T2nd L DIG, 1st L aces
Burke: 1st MB %, 2nd MB BL, K, Top 10 MB Bl/s, K/s

Stat Lows:

2023 SFA VolleyBlog 2nd Team All-WAC

OH Avery Shewell, Utah Valley
OH Michalina Rola, CBU
RS Tori Ellis, Utah Valley
MB Trista Strasser, Grand Canyon
MB Alissa Uhlenhop, Grand Canyon
S Luanna Emiliano, UTRGV
L Kiraliz Perez, UTRGV
MB Luisa Santos, UTRGV

Stat Pros:
Shewell: 5th OH k/s, 4th OH %, 1st OH ace, 2nd OH BL
Rola: 3rd OH K, 4th OH k/s, Top 10 OH %, dig/s
Ellis: 2nd RS k/s, bl/s, 3rd RS K, 6th RS %
Strasser: T5 MB BL, Top 10 MB Bl/s, %
Uhlenhop: 2nd MB %, 4th MB Bl/s, Top 10 MB BL, k/s
Emiliano: 1000+ assists, 1st S aces & d/s
Perez: 1st L dig/s, T2nd L DIG
Santos: 3rd MB K, 4th MB BL, Top 10 MB k/s & %

Stat Lows:
Rola: 20th OH Bl/s
Strasser: 14th MB K
Uhlenhop: 13th MB K

2023 SFA VolleyBlog 3rd Team All-WAC

OH Claudia Lupescu, UTRGV
OH Kennedi Knudsen, Utah Tech
RS Tanishua Joseph, SFA
MB Caleigh Vagana, Utah Valley
MB Laura Walewska, CBU
S Madeline Guffy, ACU
L Matti Theurer, Tarleton
OH Arianna Bilby, Seattle

Stat Pros:
Lupescu: 5th OH %, 4th OH BL, 6th OH ace
Knudsen: Top 10 OH in k/s, K, Bl/s and ace
Joseph: 2nd RS %, 4th RS Bl/s
Vagana: 1st MB Bl/s, 3rd MB BL
Walewska: 5th MB %, Top 10 MB BL, K
Guffy: Top 5 S in assist/set, assists, dig/s and ace
Theurer: Top 3 L in d/s and DIG
Bilby: 3rd OH in k/s, 4th OH K, 6th OH dig/s, Top 10 OH in % & BL

Stat Lows:
Lupsecu: 14th OH dig/s, 15th OH K
Knudsen: 17th OH %
Vagana: 22nd MB k/s, 20th MB K, 21st MB %
Walewska: T15th MB Bl/s, 16th MB k/s
Guffy:  Low Bl/s for 5-1 S

2023 SFA VolleyBlog Honorable Mentions All-WAC

Paris Key (RS, UTRGV), Alleah Dallas (MB, SFA), Allison Bryant (OH, Tarleton), Andrea Spasojevic (OH, Southern Utah), Bryley Steinhilber (OH, ACU), Jayden Flynn (S, SFA), Megan Hodges (S, Tarleton), Elif Teksoy (S, Seattle), Ali Wells (L, UTA)

Coach of the Year:  Debbie Humphreys, SFA
Player of the Year: Ielan Bradley, SFA
Setter of the Year: Klaire Mitchell, Grand Canyon
Libero of the Year: Haley Hoang, SFA
Freshman of the Year: Tanishua Joseph, SFA

Tanishua Joseph, (RS, SFA)
Elif Teksoy (S, Seattle)
Nicole Mauser (RS, CBU)
Lani Matavao (L, Utah Valley)
Nadine Zech (OH, UTRGV)
Sydney Reese (MB, Utah Tech)

OH: 40% related to kill stats, 25% related to hitting percentage/efficiency, 25% defense stats, 10% serving stats with adjustments made for 6 vs. 3 rotation usage and observation

RS: 70% offense with half of that related to hitting percentage/efficiency, 30% blocking with slight adjustments made for observation

MB: 60% blocking metrics, 40% offense with half of that related to hitting percentage/efficiency with slight adjustments made for observation

S: assist metrics as they relate to 5-1 vs. 6-2 usage, serving, slight consideration of dig/set, significant adjustments for observation, no fixed percentage breakdown like OH, RS, MB

L: dig/set, serving, significant adjustments for observation, no fixed percentage breakdown like OH, RS, MB.

"Observation" includes all of the following:  notes taken while calling matches, conversations with coaches during year, appearance of leadership and demeanor while on court and on bench while watching/calling matches, decision making, interactions with teammates.  All of these things are considered but would not move a particular player up or down more than one or two "slots" within position based on objective statistical measures.